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As Biden-Harris take over, AFSCME renews calls for federal aid for public services

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By AFSCME Staff ·

The federal government urgently needs to provide aid to states, cities, towns and schools to prop up their ailing economies, preserve and restore public services and keep public service workers on the job.

That’s the gist of a letter AFSCME and the other three large public service unions – AFT, NEA, SEIU – are sending to Congress as the Biden-Harris administration prepares to begin its first term. Joining the big four unions were the AFL-CIO, and a broad coalition of unions and educational, civil rights and social service organizations.

“With a new president taking office next week and with Democrats assuming control of the U.S. Senate, this investment in states, counties, cities, towns and schools must be an early and top priority,” the groups wrote. “We urge you to make it a reality within days of President-elect Biden’s inauguration.”

The letter, addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, serves as a reminder to the incoming Congress that this federal investment is critical to jumpstart the U.S. economy and rejuvenate public services following the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AFSCME’s analysis of federal statistics show that 1.34 million of the nearly 10 million jobs that vanished between February and December of last year were in the government sector. In December, the economy shed 140,000 jobs – with women bearing the brunt of the losses.  Just today, the Trump administration announced that the number of new unemployment claims filed last week climbed to 965,000, the largest increase since August.

The results of the November elections, and the January runoff contests in Georgia, fueled fresh hopes of securing federal aid to states, cities, towns and schools from the new pro-worker majorities in the House and the Senate. Since early last year, AFSCME has pushed for this aid as part of our union’s Fund the Front Lines campaign.

Communities of all kinds, in red and blue states, are struggling to cope with COVID-fueled revenue declines. Calls for robust federal aid have come from economists and organizations all over the ideological spectrum – including from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

Pelosi and Schumer have been fighting for robust federal aid but departing President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell – who will no longer serve as Senate majority leader – blocked it throughout last year, despite polls showing overwhelming public support for this aid.

The letter from AFSCME and its coalition partners seeks $1 trillion in “unrestricted funding, free of any poison pills, conditions or limitations that undermine working people.” The coalition also seeks an increase in the federal Medicaid match so more people can gain health coverage – critically important in the midst of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal assistance will help states, cities, towns and schools “handle crises and respond to emergencies, capacity that has been vastly diminished since the austerity measures imposed during the Great Recession about a dozen years ago,” the letter says. “This federal assistance is good politics and good policy, a moral and an economic imperative.”

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